Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 13th August 2019
“it’s certainly entertaining but not, for the most part, in the manner in which it was intended”
Based on Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Secret Sharer’, The Geminus tells the tale of Captain Hotson and his unexpected romance with nautical fugitive Leggatt. Hotson (John Black) is a novice captain, grappling with his newfound authority and responsibility. Taking the night’s watch alone, he finds Leggatt (Gareth Wildig) clinging for dear life on the side of his ship. After Leggatt’s explanation of how he came to be involved in the death of a man on his own ship, Hotson decides he seems like an alright fellow, fetches him some matching silk pyjamas and stows him away in his quarters.
Neither gentleman feels the need to button up their silky jammies as they circle one another, discovering such fun facts as they’ve both been to the same public boys’ school. “What happened to your clothes?”, asks Captain Hotson. Leggatt moves ever closer to the captain, shirts billowing open…
The Geminus comes across as poorly written homo-erotica, without the actual deed. It’s neither one thing or another really – neither a close study of a covert, forbidden relationship, nor an outrageously sexy romp. Writer and director Ross Dinwiddy seems set on making this a serious story, but simultaneously takes literally any opportunity to create sexual tension. When explaining why he didn’t swim away on being spotted on the side of the ship, for example, Leggatt looks intensely at his new acquaintance, and purrs, “I didn’t mind being looked at… I liked it.”
The unnatural dialogue doesn’t give much opportunity for great performances, though the most enjoyable scene to watch is certainly the almost farcical encounter between Captain Hotson and Ma Gwen (Christine Kempell) playing captain of the Sephora, Leggatt’s former ship. Ma Gwen boards the ship looking for her former first mate who is, of course, hiding only a few steps away. There’s something a little pantomimish, which again doesn’t really work if we’re to take this story seriously and experience any real feeling of danger in Leggatt’s almost getting caught, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
The set is simple, with only a table and stools, a bed (of course) and a helm, but a blue light washes over the stage, and we hear crashing waves throughout the production, which serves to keep the audience at sea. There are a couple of moments when the performers struggle to be heard over the soundtrack but for the most part it’s effective.
Whether Dinwiddy decides to take a closer look at what it is that brings these two men together and what will inevitably keep them apart, or whether he leans in to the overly erotic and outrageous, there is something interesting at the core of this story. As it stands however, it’s certainly entertaining but not, for the most part, in the manner in which it was intended.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography courtesy Blue Devil Productions
Tristan Bates Theatre
until 17th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
Previously reviewed at this venue: